'There was an immediate bond,': Tandem Para-Cycling duo compete at Nationals minutes after meeting

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Posted at 7:26 PM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 21:39:45-04

IDAHO — Prior to the Para-Cycling Nationals Road Race in Melba, Simon Isakov's pilot had to withdraw from the race. Isakov is blind in both eyes and relies on a pilot to help guide him through the course, and verbally tell him what is coming next, so without a pilot, Isakov would not be able to compete.

“The pilot tells me when he is making a turn when we are about to start when we are about to stop,” Isakov said. “He’s very verbal, and would tell me when he’s about to get water, and I would tell him when I am about to get water, just anything about the course.”

When cyclist Darren Howard heard about Isakov’s pilot, he immediately stepped up and agreed to pilot him through the road race.

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“I had the opportunity and I definitely wanted to be a part of this, and once I understood that we could ride together and stay upright it just felt very natural,” Howard said. “But it took a lot of communication and working through all that. Once we started going we felt a lot better and I think we just helped each other through the whole process.”

Normally a pilot and the rider practice for months if not years together to build that trust and work together, but for this duo it all came together within minutes.

“Before we started the race, we warmed up for like five minutes, and it was pretty good,” Isakov said. “He had cycling experience and I am pretty laid back as far as how things go, so it was great. It felt really comfortable.”

It's a story of two complete strangers coming together for the love of cycling.

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“It is just a lot of trust, he trusted me, I trusted him, and we just kind of built off that. After doing it for two hours there was a pretty immediate bond and that was incredible for me,” Howard said. “We didn’t know each other and then to go through this, by the end of it we were cheering each other on to make sure we could finish the race and accomplish that.”

The two went from complete strangers to lifelong friends. But, if you ask any CAF member this is what their events are all about. People helping people, and the community coming together for the love of sport.

“It was amazing just getting to meet him (Darren) right here because he literally came up at the very last minute and it was just really great, and the race was fun,” Isakov said. “But the fact that he was able to do that was just amazing."